Rationalizing violence : examining discourse and school closures in Washington, D.C., public schools
From 2008 to 2014, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), in Washington, D.C., underwent school consolidation and reorganization that led to 38 public school closures. These closures disproportionately impacted Black students and were reiterations of a historical discourse of violence against Black livelihood. While some researchers suggest students experience minimal, if any, adverse impacts from school closure and contend no harm is inflicted, I posit the disproportionality of the impacts alone warrants further examination. The problem created by school closure and consolidation policies is a nuanced issue in that it is an extension of inequities in public education but also a new form of violence yet to be articulated in educational research. Using Freeman’s (1977) theory of legitimization and Bonilla-Silva’s (1997) theory of racialized social systems to expand traditional notions of violence, this study examined and (re)produced public data from a 2013 and 2014 court case, Smith et al. v. Henderson et al., as a springboard to operationalize violent discourse as it pertains to school closure. Through the application of Critical Discourse Analysis, this study examined the discursive practices that legitimize and normalize violence. The study found evidence of practices such as referencing governing authorities, framing a narrative for the court and public, and circumventing moral and ethical evaluation of legitimized violence. Furthermore, these discursive practices championed normalized violence that articulated an exclusionary, spatialized, and institutional bias against residents living east of D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. Interdisciplinary approaches to theoretical and methodological frameworks, as well as top-down and bottom-up (Sabatier, 1986) approaches, are discussed as issues for future research and K-12 education policy reform and advocacy.